It started off so well, so out of character for Boston College. The Eagles opened the game connecting on four of their five four shots in the opening 5:15 of the game, all three pointers, to race to 12-4 lead. But the well ran dry quickly after that and BC had no further answers, at least in the first half, for the Orange zone. Syracuse ended the half on an outrageous 31-5 run over the that final 14:45 and beat the Eagles 69-61 in the Carrier Dome on Tuesday night.
It was an odd game, one that featured some things we have seen a lot of, both present and past from both clubs, but ultimately lead to another Eagle loss, the fifth in a row in the ACC (now 8-9 overall and 0-5 in the conference). BC has not beaten a power conference team since Providence in early December.
There is a coaching philosophy that says if you try to do more than three things well, you will probably do nothing well...let's see what three things the Eagles did right tonight and of course, three that didn't go so well.
Making it a Game
Let's face it, this one could have turned ugly after halftime. I posted in the comments section that the team had quit at the end of the first half and what they would show after halftime unveil a lot about the character of the team. It's not as if they played a great second half and they got back into the game based on effort (and a few dozen missed Syracuse free throws didn't hurt either). The game leveled out in the second half after BC made a slight run, but SU had it up to 14 at the 2:42 mark left. BC could have easily packed it in there too, but between those missed free throws and some good Eagle energy, got it to six a couple of times. You never got the feeling BC could win it, but heck, I didn't think BC would lose the Pitt game in the way they did either.
Life out of Aaron Brown and Dimitri Batten
At least from a scoring perspective, Jim Christian got production from both Brown and Batten that they certainly could have used against UVA on Saturday. The duo combined for 38 points, albeit not a great shooting night (10-25 FG) and were instrumental in both getting the Eagles off to a strong start and in the comeback effort. Unfortunately, both had some key mental lapses offensively and Brown in particular struggled defensively. Batten did a nice job overall on Trevor Cooney.
BC was only a -2 rebounding margin for the game. Considering how this could have gone, it's not too bad. It may be a touch misleading because some of those were gathered from all the foul shots Syracuse missed down the stretch. However, considering the way this has been going, to stay essentially even with a team you were giving up significant size to based on the people who are actually on the floor (there's that bogus height stat again), was good.
Attacking the 2-3 zone
What more can be said than what has been said and what Len Elmore added on the TV broadcast?
About the worst thing that happened to BC was making those first 4 of 5 from beyond the stripe. It masked the fact that what they were doing simply wasn't going to succeed in the long run. Yes, BC wound up making 10 of 29 threes, but that equates to just over 34%, certainly nothing stellar. Those 29 attempts were 57 percent of the total field goals BC took on the evening. In other words no presence inside.
This entire topic of how to attack a zone is enough for an article of its own. Look for it later this week. We will dive in detail into what the Eagle philosophy is and why it hasn't been successful. That said, I will say that running against the zone and not letting it set up, is rule #1 of how to beat it and later in the second half, BC did a better job of that.
Believe it or not, when I wrote the first draft of this after the game, I had mentioned Hanlan in another section, but not called him out specifically. This morning, in the clarity of a fitful night of sleep, I changed my mind. Yes, he finished with 13 points and was at least partially responsible for getting the Eagles back into the game, but when your leading and only consistent scoring option goes the first 30 minutes of the game with just two points, you are going to find yourself down 18 and that was Hanlan's night.
His numbers at game's end are fairly respectable (13 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and just 1 turnover in 39 minutes) but felt more like what a quarterback would wind up with for passing yards when behind and the game is out of reach.
Is he held to a different standard than others on the team? Sure he is. But he is also the only consistent and viable offensive option this team has and when he struggles, so does BC.
The in-the-lane floater, which he has made in the past, has abandoned him and rather than just being strong and getting all the way to the rim or taking a strong mid range pull up jump shot which he had been so good at, he settles for that floater. Remember, Hanlan is 6'4, so he should have the ability to get in the lane fairly consistently against a zone the way he does against man.
How the coaching staff used him tonight was an interesting story as well, one to cover in the zone article discussion later in the week, but suffice to say that limiting the areas of the floor through which he attacks wasn't helpful.
Vanishing big men
Part of this is zone offensive design, part of this is ineptitude, but boy is BC is devoid of a post presence. The Eagles scored a grand total of 1 point from the bigs who played tonight. ONE! Will Magarity (the human foul), Eddie Odio (isn't he a completely different player than last year) and John Cain Carney (where are you Idy Diallo) contributed zero points and three rebounds in 30 minutes of playing time, while Dennis Clifford made a free throw and ripped down 1 board in his 17 minutes on the floor. That the big men took just four shots the whole evening is an indictment of both the approach and the talent level, but it will be nearly impossible to win any games the rest of the season if that type of performance is repeated.
When you play this poorly—and make no mistake, this was one of the worst performances of the season—there are a lot more than three things that jump out. A quick list of some others:
- the re-appearance of the bad Patrick Heckmann
- confusing substitution patterns that at times had five guards or small forwards on the floor—had one defensive match up of Rakeem Christmas covered by Aaron Brown
- zero bench points
- the last few minutes of the first half, where the team simply look like they had packed it in
- too many easy touches for Rakeem Christmas. Christmas got in foul trouble and did play the role of whiner, but it was a gift for BC to have him on the bench for so long as the Eagles had no answer to limit his touches while he was in the game
- the lack of atmosphere in the Dome. We talk about wanting a rival and Syracuse should be that team, but unless the TV broadcast lied, it was as quiet and uninspired 23,000+ that I have witnessed in that building
It doesn't really get any easier from here. There are games coming up on the schedule that look winnable—on a neutral floor—but the ones where you would figure the Eagles have the best chance (Georgia Tech and Clemson) are on the road. The Eagles could or will be underdogs in at least their next 11 games. We could be sitting here for a while waiting for the first ACC W.